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Highlights of the Week in Presidential Politics

Republican presidential contenders


This week brought two more candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio, officially into the race – and it saw other candidates and potential candidates take action and positions that tell conservatives a lot about where their campaigns are headed.

First, let’s talk about Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s official announcement was, well, “Clintonian,” that’s the only way to describe it.

Almost nothing about Mrs. Clinton’s announcement and subsequent campaign trip to Iowa, except her overwhelming desire to be America’s first female president, was real – everything else was stagecraft, consultant-created or a good old fashioned lie.

Perhaps the most outrageous lie was Clinton’s invention on Wednesday of three immigrant grandparents to push for more foreign workers.

According to a BuzzFeed article, re-reported here according to Breitbart, three of her grandparents were born in the United States while her paternal grandfather was an immigrant from England. Last year, Clinton also falsely claimed that her paternal grandmother, Hanna Jones Rodham, “immigrated with her family as a young girl to Scranton.”

As BuzzFeed noted, according to Census records, “Hanna Jones Rodham, Clinton’s paternal grandmother (the wife of Hugh Rodham Sr.) was born in Pennsylvania in 1882, according to the 1910 census” while her paternal grandfather, Hugh Rodham Sr., “was born in England and immigrated with his parents as a child.” Clinton’s maternal grandparents were both born in Illinois, according to Census records.

And yet according to DC newspaper The Hill, “One hundred one lawmakers have endorsed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run for president, locking down over 43 percent of all Democrats in Congress.”

The Hill’s count-to-date includes, “Seventy-three House lawmakers, nearly 40 percent of the 188 Democrats in the chamber, as well as 28 senators, more than 60 percent of the upper chamber’s 46 Democrats, are in the former secretary of State’s camp.”

Blue collar workers seeing their wages depressed by millions of illegal aliens in the workforce and white collar Democratic voters in jeopardy of losing their jobs to techno-coolies should be guided more by Clinton’s actions at Chipotle, where she stiffed the $10.20 an hour workers by failing to leave a tip, rather than her talk about non-existent immigrant ancestors and a phony plan to raise the taxes of hedge fund managers and thereby hit her hedge fund manager son-in-law for higher taxes.

Clinton is proving daily why she is the Democratic candidate conservatives should want to run against, and yet she still strikes fear in the hearts of establishment Republicans who share many of her views.

With regard to Republicans, Jeb Bush made an important speech in Ohio. Ohio is an important November election state – no Republican has won the presidency without it – but its relatively late primary often makes it irrelevant to the selection of the GOP nominee.

Speaking at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting, Bush reiterated his support for Common Core educational standards and expanding legal immigration during a speech Tuesday to the establishment business group.

Bush called for creating a guest worker program and "dramatically" increasing the number of immigrants allowed to come work in the United States – exactly the same position held by Hillary Clinton.

Bush also endorsed Common Core education standards – a position also held by Hillary Clinton.

But it was where Bush spoke, as much as what he said, that told voters all they need to know about the former Florida Governor’s campaign.

The non-verbal communication of Jeb Bush speaking to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce provided pretty solid reinforcement of the message that Jeb is the “great white hope” of the Republican establishment.

In contrast to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Jeb Bush made no attempt to appeal to grassroots limited government constitutional conservatives – and even doubled down on Common Core and open borders – two items likely to be deal breakers for most grassroots limited government constitutional conservatives.

There wasn’t one line in Jeb Bush’s speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce that conservatives could take away in the hope that a Jeb Bush administration would advance anything of importance on the conservative agenda.

Marco Rubio made his official announcement this week, and demonstrated why he is both so formidable and so problematic as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Rubio’s announcement speech, set at Miami’s iconic Freedom Tower, hit all the right notes in its emphasis on the Florida Senator’s compelling personal story and his claim of foreign policy credibility at a time when the international chaos wrought by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has loosed a set of truly existential threats against America and the West.

But Rubio then threw away his newly claimed credibility as the conservative foreign policy candidate by wilting in the face of his first post-announcement challenge – the fight to stop Obama’s treaty to legitimize Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Completely defying all logic of policy, and politics, Rubio voted for the Corker bill to betray the Senate’s constitutional power to be the final word on whether or not the United States agrees to a treaty AND withdrew his sensible amendment to require Obama certify to Congress that Iran recognizes the state of Israel. Instead of forcing a vote on his amendment, Rubio wilted and settled for language asserting that the nuclear agreement would not compromise U.S. support for Israel’s right to exist.

In voting for the Corker bill Marco Rubio joined Senator Corker in betraying a host of interests who were looking to him as one candidate for president who had stressed foreign policy in his announcement and who was committed to subduing the dangers Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have loosed on the world.

Instead of the bold and honest foreign policy based on conservative principles Senator Rubio promised, what his vote for the Corker bill did was advance what is perhaps Barack Obama’s most dangerous foreign policy action to-date – legitimizing Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the missile program that makes it a worldwide threat.

And make no mistake – it is the combination of Iran’s expansionist Islamism and nuclear weapons technology that is the threat. If Senator Rubio does not understand that he is unfit to be a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, let alone President.

Senator Rand Paul also had a rough week – but it was not due to his ongoing battles with arrogant and abusive members of the establishment media who went out of their way to set-up personality conflicts with the liberty-minded Senator from Kentucky.

From what we could tell Senator Paul’s confrontations with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans, Associated Press reporter Philip Elliott, Savannah Guthrie of NBC News, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and even Fox News' Megyn Kelly, have all played well with the grassroots who are distrustful of, if not downright hostile to, the national media, and especially its liberal sisterhood.

While the media tut-tutted about Rand Paul’s irascible attitude toward them they apparently forgot that Newt Gingrich got the biggest applause lines of the 2012 Republican debates when he attacked the media as opposed to his fellow Republicans.

But hidden behind the non-substantive smoke about his demeanor toward the media was a very substantive vote in the Senate that could come back to haunt Senator Paul – the vote on the budget-busting permanent “doc fix.”

In contrast to two of his opponents, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio, Paul voted for the budget-busting bill that added, without offsets, some $140 billion to the budget deficit, and thus bakes another $140 billion into the $18 trillion+ national debt.

This is a vote almost every political observer agrees his father, libertarian icon Congressman Ron Paul, would never have cast.

While the vote for the budget-busting “doc fix” was not front page news in the establishment media, it was well-noted in the conservative and libertarian blogosphere and contributed mightily to the growing perception that Rand Paul is not the carrier of the liberty-loving legacy of his father, but has become just another politician who was voting the line advocated by a special interest – his fellow doctors.

Ron Paul’s libertarian-leaning voters are essential to any Rand Paul GOP primary-winning coalition. While many of them may stay with Rand out of their fierce loyalty to the Paul name, every time Senator Paul casts a vote that deviates so wildly from their expectations as the “doc fix” vote did a few more of them will drift away thereby weakening the most important segment of Rand Paul’s base.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was mostly off the front page, but that didn’t mean he was not campaigning or building his campaign.

After a rousing speech at the NRA Convention where Senator Cruz challenged Hillary Clinton to “come and get our guns,” and told that “the Constitution trumps public opinion” (he’s right) Cruz continued his constitutional conservative campaign by wooing other micro-segments of the conservative constitutionalist coalition.

Senator Cruz also made a major outreach effort to the Orthodox Jewish community, who share conservative Christian alarm at the erosion of religious liberty in favor of compelled secularism on matters such as same-sex marriage.

As POLITICO’s Katie Glueck reported, “Leaders in the Orthodox community point approvingly to his [Cruz’s] vigorous opposition to the administration’s negotiations with Iran, his comfort level with religious references and, most important, his passionate support for Israel, a theme he touched on during his presidential announcement speech. “

Cruz also staked a further claim to the limited government constitutional conservative vote by voting against the budget-busting “doc fix” and undercut Rubio’s claim to the mantle of “foreign policy candidate” with a powerful, but under-reported, speech to the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As The Charlotte Observer reported, Cruz identified Iran as the United States’ number one national security threat, calling Obama’s negotiations with Iran a “historically dangerous deal” that would allow the country to acquire nuclear weapons.

“The problem with Iran is that when you are dealing with theocratic zealots – who glorify death and suicide – ordinary cost-benefit analysis doesn’t work,” he said.

Cruz recently introduced legislation that would re-impose sanctions on Iran with clear steps the country must take before they are lifted.

According to Cruz, Iran should: disassemble its 19,000 centrifuges used to separate uranium; hand over all enriched uranium; shut down its intercontinental ballistic missile program, and stop sponsoring terrorists.

“A strong commander-in-chief would stand up to Iran and say, ‘Either you will halt your nuclear weapon production or we will halt it for you,’” Cruz said.

Unlike the stumbling and wilting of Marco Rubio, there could not be a clearer contrast between the Cruz position on Iran and the Hillary Clinton – Barack Obama cave-in to Iran.

Cruz showed that sometimes staying off the front pages has more presidential campaign benefits than being on it, but Cruz’s forceful speech on Iran shows he’s not hiding his light under a bushel.

As important as Cruz’s speech on Iran and vote against the “doc fix” were, we are going to have to hand the top honors this week to not-a-candidate-yet Donald Trump.

Regardless of whether Trump is officially in or exploring or never goes to the gate his comments in an exclusive interview with our friend Matt Boyle of Breitbart framed why conservative anti-establishment candidates like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are rising in the polls while establishment candidate Jeb Bush is fading:

“I’m a conservative Republican, but I’m in many respects a lot more disappointed in the Republicans than I am in the Democrats. Democrats want what they want, and Republicans cave at every corner. Nobody understands why. They have the cards and they don’t use them. So many different things are allowed to go by whether it’s the vote from the other night [the doc fix bill] or many of the different votes over the last few years.”

Matt Boyle further reported Trump’s analysis that “Over the course of this week, Republicans in Washington have caved on everything fromthe Iran deal legislation from Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) to the national debt with the “doc fix” bill to gay marriage to trade promotion authority. Just a few short months into 2015, Republicans have caved on everything from abortion to Obamacare to immigration and more. And they’re currently looking for a way to cave on the Loretta Lynch nomination for Attorney General.”

“The Republicans fold at every corner and nobody really understands why,” Trump said.

Trump went on to tell Matt Boyle:

“That would not happen with me as president, that I can tell you. For one thing, they have to negotiate differently. They have the cards. They have the purse strings, but they don’t use them. They have tremendous power and they’re not using the power. Obamacare has been fully funded, the vote the other night as to increasing the limits [on the national debt] without negotiation just automatically agreed to. Every single thing is just agreed to. They fund everything and they fund it unilaterally. It’s incredible to me that they do this, and it’s incredible to me that the Democrats get away with it.”

Trump has announced he is forming a presidential exploratory committee, and claims it is staffed in key primary states, although we have yet to see it officially in action anyplace.

Trump says if he runs, he’s running to win and there’s no reason to doubt his commitment if he decides to get in. But running and losing would be a serious, perhaps fatal blow to the Trump brand, and that’s a lot to risk beyond the money that Trump rightly figures he can spend and make more of as only he knows how.

We give the laurel for the best week in presidential politics to Donald Trump because, if Trump gets in he’s summarized his campaign in one compelling interview, and if he doesn’t get in, he just made the best speech we’ve yet heard justifying the candidacy of Ted Cruz and defining his brand as the one Republican presidential contender who never folds or abandons conservative principles.

To read Matt Boyle’s exclusive interview with Donald Trump in its entirety click this link.

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